While you may have whittled your laptop options down to Apple’s premium line of portable computers, you still have plenty of choices left to make. However, before we get started going over MacBook Pro configuration options, this might be an opportune time to double check the choices you have made so far that have led to your selection of the MacBook Pro. If you’re not 100% sure about what you are looking for in a computer, take a moment to glance over this useful computer buying guide that also provides an easy-to-understand introduction to the most common computer component options.
Now that you’ve made sure that you are going with the best laptop model for your needs, let’s take a look at all the various MacBook Pro options that are currently available.
Apple currently offers three different MacBook Pro models: the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Obviously, the first choice you will need to make involves deciding which of these models best suits your needs. As far as price, the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,099, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display starts at $1,299, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display starts at $1,999. If price is a major concern for you, the nearly $1,000 difference between the non-Retina 13-inch MacBook Pro and the 15-inch MacBook Pro is something that you may want to consider. You may also want to consider purchasing a lower-cost refurbished MacBook Pro from the Apple Store or an authorized reseller. If you’re buying a MacBook Pro for educational use, you should also check out the special discounts that Apple offers to students and teachers.
Screen size and quality
Of course, one of the primary reasons why the 13-inch MacBook Pro is cheaper is because of its screen quality. The 13-inch MacBook Pro features a 1280-by-800 resolution display for approximately 113 pixels per inch (ppi). The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display offers 2560-by-1600 resolution (227 ppi), while the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display offers 2880-by-1800 resolution (220 ppi). While higher pixel resolution supposedly offers a better quality image, according to a retinal neuroscientist cited by The New York Times, anything over 220 ppi is already beyond what most humans can detect during normal computer usage.
On the other hand, there is no question that text and images are both easier to see when presented on a larger screen. Consider whether or not you will be using your MacBook Pro to watch movies from a little farther away than normal sitting distance or if you will be using it exclusively for browsing or word processing when making your screen size and quality selections.
Since laptops are typically used on the go, battery life is always an important metric to consider when purchasing a portable computer. According to Apple, the 13-inch MacBook Pro will provide up to 7 hours of wireless Web usage on a single charge. The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display will last up to 9 hours, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display will last up to 8 hours. A full rundown of Apple’s battery performance tests can be viewed here.
MacBook Pro configuration options
When it comes to the “guts” of your MacBook Pro, Apple offers customers a basic entry-level version of all of its laptops, as well as a slew of “build-your-own” configuration options that lets you pick and choose among certain components in order to customize a device that best fits your needs. If you need a quick reminder about what the function of each computer component is, peruse the definitions for processor, RAM, and hard drives in this computer buying guide. In short, the processor is the “brains” of a computer; RAM is related to a computer’s speed and ability to multitask; and the hard drive will determine how much storage space a computer will have. Here’s an overview of all the configuration options for each of the three standard MacBook Pro models.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes standard with a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor with Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz. This can be upgraded to a 2.9GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz for an additional $150.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display comes standard with 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz. This can be upgraded to a 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz for an extra $100 or to a 3.0GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.5GHz for an extra $300.
- The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display comes standard with a 2.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.4GHz. This can be upgraded to 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz for an extra $100 or to a 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz for an extra $300.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes standard with 4GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 8GB for an extra $100.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display comes standard with 8GB of RAM that can be upgraded to 16GB for an extra $200.
- All configurations of the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display come with 16GB of RAM.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro comes standard with a 500GB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive. This can be bumped up to a 1TB 5400-rpm Serial ATA hard drive for an extra $50. However, if you know that you’re going to be using your MacBook Pro on the go a lot, you may want to bite the bullet and spring for a solid state drive. While the solid state drives Apple offers for the 13-inch MacBook Pro don’t provide as much storage space as the 1TB spinning hard drive, they do provide enhanced durability since solid state drives have no moving parts. The 13-inch MacBook Pro can be upgraded to a 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB solid state drive for an extra $150, $350, or $650, respectively. It should be noted that the 13-inch MacBook Pro is the only MacBook Pro model offered by Apple that still comes standard with a built-in CD/DVD SuperDrive. However, an external SuperDrive can be purchased for the newer MacBook Pro models for an extra $79.
- The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display comes standard with 128GB PCIe-based flash storage that can be upgraded to 256GB for an extra $200. Capacity storage options higher than 256GB are only available for the 2.8GHz and 3.0GHz versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display. Both of those versions come standard with 512GB PCIe-based flash storage that can be upgraded to 1TB for an additional $500.
- The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display comes standard with 256GB PCIe-based flash storage that can be upgraded to 512GB for an extra $300, or 1TB for an extra $800.
Apple also sells a variety of peripherals for the MacBook Pro, including the previously mentioned USB-connected SuperDrive for $79, as well as an external 27-inch Thunderbolt Display for $999. Check out Apple’s website to get a full list of available peripherals for the MacBook Pro.
One intangible peripheral you may want to consider purchasing is an AppleCare Protection Plan. While every MacBook Pro comes with complimentary telephone technical support for 90 days and a one-year limited warranty, an AppleCare Protection Plan will extend your service and warranty protection to three years. AppleCare plans for the 13-inch MacBook Pro and 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display costs an extra $249, while plans for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display cost an extra $349.
Time is of the essence
Like any technological product, Apple’s MacBook Pro models are subject to price changes when new models are released. Apple’s MacBook Pro line was most recently refreshed in July 2014 when the laptops received minor processor speed boosts and a new 16GB standard for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display models. At the same time, the price for the legacy 13-inch MacBook Pro was reduced by $100. For this reason, if you are planning on purchasing a MacBook Pro, it may be worth waiting for Apple’s next refresh cycle. Unfortunately, Apple’s refresh cycles for the MacBook Pro have been far less predictable than its refresh cycles for its iPhone and iPad products. While the MacBook Pro models were refreshed in July of 2014, the laptops were previously refreshed by Apple in February of 2013, and in June and October in 2012.
However, you can sometimes get a rough idea of when Apple will refresh its line of laptops by keeping an eye on new processor developments. Apple’s MacBook Pros rely on Broadwell processors made by Intel. The next MacBook Pro price cut will likely occur sometime in 2015.
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